October 17, 2022
The November General Election is three short weeks away and Maryland is ready! Mail-in ballots are on their way to mailboxes across the State, and all ballot drop boxes have been installed and are ready to receive ballots.
There are many ways to cast your vote—by mail, at an early voting center, or in-person on November 8! Those who wish to vote by mail or drop box must request a mail-in ballot by November 1st and drop off their ballots by November 8. Seven early in-person voting centers will also be open in the City from October 27 through November 3. And, for those who are able and prefer to vote the old-fashioned way, like me, Election Day polls will be open on November 8th from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Court of Appeals Approves Early Counting
Thanks to a ruling by the Maryland Court of Appeals last week, local election officials are authorized to count mail-in ballots prior to election day to avoid destabilizing delays in announcing election results. The ruling comes after a legal battle between gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox and the Maryland Board of Elections over a petition to suspend an outdated law that prohibits election officials from counting mail-in ballots until two days after the election. That law is the only one of its kind in the country, which is why the General Assembly passed legislation in the 2022 Legislative Session to provide our local boards of election the latitude they need. Unfortunately, that legislation was vetoed after we adjourned Sine Die.
The Court of Appeals' decision is yet another win for democracy. Marylanders can rest assured that their votes will be counted in a secure and efficient manner. As the late Congressman John Lewis said: “The vote is precious. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democratic society, and we must use it.”
New Laws as of October 1
I am deeply proud of the General Assembly’s work this year to pass meaningful legislation to enhance the lives of Marylanders. This October, hundreds of new laws went into effect across the State, including measures to reduce gun theft and violence, provide interrogation protections for juveniles, and reduce highway deaths. Here are just a few:

  • The Child Interrogation Protection Act ensures constitutional protections extend to minors by prohibiting officers from interviewing a juvenile until the child’s parent or guardian are notified and the child has a chance to speak with an attorney. The ACLU estimates that children in custody who don’t have an attorney give false confessions more than three times as often as adults.
  • The number of guns flooding our streets is unacceptable and many of those firearms are stolen. That's why the Senate made the establishment of a Maryland State Police Gun Center part of our public safety package last Session. The enabling legislation went into effect on October 1, providing one more resource to track the flow of illegal firearms into our State as they are used in the commission of crimes.
  • The age to marry in Maryland was also raised from 15 to 17, providing important protections for children and ending the longstanding reputation of Maryland as a destination for child marriage. It also requires permission to marry from all living parents or guardians, or proof of pregnancy or parenthood.
  • Several new laws were also passed to protect the health and well-being of animals in Maryland. Cats may no longer be declawed under a new law that was supported by animal welfare advocates who say the practice is cruel and inhuman. Dogs must have shelter or shade to remain outside if the temperature climbs to 90 degrees or hotter or if it is below freezing.
For a full list of laws that take effect this month, please click here.
Expungement on the Ballot
Last week, President Biden announced a comprehensive pardon for all prior federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana and ordered federal officials to review the drug’s controlled-substance classification status. The President urged governors to follow his lead and waive similar convictions on the State level, citing the many states that have decriminalized its use and the disparate and devastating impact current laws have on minority communities.
Marylanders will have the opportunity to cast a vote to legalize the possession of small amounts of recreational marijuana by voting “Yes” on Question 4 on November 8th. If approved, the statewide referendum will also allow anyone held in a State prison on a simple possession conviction to request release if that was their only conviction. The law would automatically expunge a prior conviction if possession of marijuana was the only offense.
Student Loan Forgiveness and Waiver Period
The application for student loan debt relief launched over the weekend. Qualified borrowers can receive up to $20,000 in debt relief if they qualified for a Federal Pell Grant in college, or $10,000 in debt relief if they did not receive a Pell Grant. The application window goes through December 31, 2023, but borrowers are encouraged to apply as soon as possible so their balance can be adjusted before payments restart the beginning of the new year. The application can be accessed here.

In addition, the limited Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) waiver ends at the end of this month, on October 31. The waiver period may allow you to receive credit for past periods of repayment on loans that would otherwise not qualify for PSLF. More information in the PSLF waiver and how to apply before the deadline can be found here.
NOBEL in Annapolis
I was happy to welcome attendees of The National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women’s Annual Legislative Conference to Annapolis last week alongside Speaker Jones. The Conference gathers over 200 Black women legislators to join industry leaders and stakeholders from around the country in dialogue on legislative and policy issues impacting the Black community.
Water Bill Discount on the Way
The Baltimore City Department of Public Works has announced that Baltimore residents will receive a 25% discount on their water bill for charges after the Boil Water Advisory event in early-September. The discount will appear on customers’ accounts starting in late October and will run through late November in the form of an adjustment. The Department will share additional information soon, including an example that will highlight where the discount will appear on the bill.
More News
I was proud to join Speaker Jones for a wonderful afternoon celebrating 20 years of the Legacy Leadership Institute for Public Policy last week. Since its inception, the Institute has trained and placed hundreds of service leaders into meaningful volunteer positions within the offices of elected officials and non-profit agencies.

The Maryland Transportation Authority’s Customer Assistance Plan ends on November 30. This one-time, money-saving opportunity provides a grace period in which civil penalties are waived for unpaid video tolls. Almost $68 million in civil penalties have been waived for over 400,000 drivers and businesses that have paid their video tolls under the program. Customers should check their account at DriveEzMD.com and pay their tolls now before the civil penalty waiver ends.
Maryland will receive more than $3 million in federal grants to support programs that support family planning, reduce teenage pregnancy, and expand adolescent sexual and reproductive health. The funds will go toward more frontline abortion services, funding for those who can’t afford the procedure, contraception, and staffing in provider offices.
The Maryland State Archives launched a new website on Indigenous Peoples’ Day last week that allows students, residents and visitors to research Native American tribes and events in Maryland history.
Thanks in part to the Built to Learn Act, passed by the General Assembly in 2020, more than $400 million will go toward renovating five Baltimore City schools, some of which are among the oldest in the nation: City College, Polytechnic Institute, Western High School, Frederick Douglass High School and the Joseph C. Briscoe Academy. The City and State will help pay the $400 million bill for the projects through the Baltimore 21st Century Schools program.
President Joe Biden visited the Volvo Plant in Hagerstown this month to highlight his work to rebuild the economy “from the bottom up and middle out.” The President stressed the importance of his Inflation Reduction Act as to lower health care and energy costs for average Americans.
If there is anything we can do to help, please do not hesitate to contact my office via email, bill.ferguson@senate.state.md.us, or by phone, 410-841-3600.